Thursday, October 13, 2016

Books We've Missed: To Kill a Mockingbird

As I think I've mentioned before, I somehow managed to miss that point in life where everyone read To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I just never had to read it in school, and never picked it up on my own. The Monday Night Book Club decided they wanted to read a classic this year, and that's what they chose. So I've finally read it!

I'm guessing, like me, you knew the basic plot of the story, but I'm going to do a brief synopsis here, so bear with me. Scout Finch is a little girl living in Depression-era Alabama with her older brother Jem and her attorney father Atticus Finch. The novel centers around the childhood of Scout and Jem: the games they play, their experiences at school, and their observations of life in Maycomb. The two children are fascinated by a reclusive man, Boo Radley, who lives down the street from them. Together with their friend Dill, they spend much of their time trying to either lure him out or trick him into showing himself.

Atticus Finch, a man who had his children late in life, is a single father and a very respected lawyer in Maycomb. In the course of the novel, he is assigned a case defending a black man against a white woman's claims of rape. This is a turning point in the small 1930s town, and opens Scout and Jem's eyes to the very real racism of their hometown.

Reading this book felt like being transported back to a different time. Harper Lee did an excellent job of immersing the reader in the time and place of the story. Descriptions of the town abound, but don't overwhelm. There are a lot of secondary characters introduced over the course of the book, and these just added to the charm of the story. The "small town gossip" element was fully at play as the book progressed, and the inclusion of the different neighbors improved upon the environment depicted.

Going into the book, I thought that the trial would be a bigger part of the story, based on what I'd known prior to reading it. So I was surprised that the trial did not happen until well into the second part of the book. Also, in discussion, I found that there were some things interpreted differently by different readers, which gave the book that element of interpretation.

Overall, I'm glad that I had a chance to catch up on this "book I missed" and I can definitely see why this book is a lasting classic. The story is still just as accessible today as I imagine it was when first published in the 60s. It is also very easy to read, even with the dialects given. I can also see why some people have tried to ban this book over the years, if only for language. However, the language very much adds to the setting of the story, and I think it would be disingenuous otherwise.

I did a lot of research on this book and Harper Lee prior to leading the book discussion on it, and I have to say I have no desire to read Go Set a Watchman.

I did listen to the audio for part of this story, and I have to say that Sissy Spacek as a narrator was AMAZING. She did an excellent job with the accents and voices.


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